In an unlikely ‘alliance’ in the war against COVID-19, Qatar and China are experiencing the benefits of solidarity and mutual assistance.
Rabat – Qatar is a country that depends heavily on alliances. The small island nation, located between geopolitical juggernauts Iran and Saudi Arabia, relies on thousands of Turkish and American troops to safeguard its independence and security.
Qatar pays 60% of the costs to maintain 40,000 US troops in the region and hosts 3,000 Turkish troops. The foreign bases on Qatari soil are the result of painstaking diplomatic work and military alliances.
In the war against the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar is forming a new alliance. China and Qatar have unexpectedly become close partners as both nations have shared in each other’s virus-related traumas.
The unlikely friendship began during China’s struggle with its COVID-19 outbreak. In February, while many countries were watching the Chinese epidemic unfold with a sense of suspicion, Qatar offered to help. As China struggled to deal with its rapidly accelerating crisis, Qatar sent the country five cargo freighters carrying hundreds of tons of donated medical supplies. Through its national airline, Qatar used its capacity as a global transport hub to assist China with free air cargo transportation.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said at the time, “When this crisis began, we knew we had to contribute to support our friends in China,” emphasizing, “we are in a unique position where we are able to provide immediate humanitarian support through the provision of aircraft and donating medical supplies as well as coordinating logistical arrangements.”
The tables have since turned and Qatar is dealing with its own local epidemic, and China is reciprocating the country’s generosity. “China and Qatar are strategic partners, who have joined hands in the face of adversity, and are supporting each other and fighting side by side the novel coronavirus disease outbreak,” Chinese Ambassador to Qatar Zhou Jian proclaimed on April 3.
Chinese support for Qatar
The Chinese diplomat acknowledged Qatar’s support, saying, “We will never forget that Qatar Airways has used its global network to deliver supplies to China. The sight of five fully-loaded cargo planes lined up on the runway of Hamad International Airport, with their engines roaring, each carrying 300-tonne medical supplies is unforgettable for me.”
Now China is ensuring that Qatar is well-prepared against the threat of COVID-19. China has opened an online knowledge center, trained Qatari health experts, and shared experience in epidemic prevention and control. Qatar is applying Chinese lessons, and has implemented many of China’s measures including national mobilization, joint prevention and control, testing and reporting, isolation methods, treatment regimens, and even the construction of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals.
In the war against COVID-19, China appears to genuinely value cooperation and solidarity. It is making four million medical masks and 640,000 disinfectants available, and Chinese banks located in Qatar donated one million pairs of medical gloves and 7,000 sets of protective clothing.
In a time of bidding wars over medical supplies, accusations of modern piracy, and countries stockpiling food reserves, the Chinese-Qatari example of solidarity and mutual support could serve as a model for global cooperation. The collaboration between the tiny Gulf state and the Asian giant show that friends can be found in unlikely places and in difficult times.